Number of out of work youngsters in March, Chatteris, Whittlesey and Wisbech drops 36 per cent in a year

Jobs Centre Plus

Jobs Centre Plus - Credit: Archant

Youth unemployment in the Fens dropped 36 per cent in the past year according to new figures from Job Centre Plus.

Last June the number of 18 to 24-year-olds looking for work in Fenland – that includes Wisbech, March, Chatteris and Whittlesey- was 205 but this June the figure was down to 130.

There has also been a marked drop – of 16 per cent- in the overall unemployed figures from 695 last June to 580 a year later.

The figures are not as impressive as in East Cambs where the number of 18 to 24 year-olds looking for work is down to 30 ( a drop of 53 per cent) but Julia Nix, regional manager for Job Centre Plus believes Fenland is improving fast.

“There is a difference between Fenland and Ely – for a start Ely has a rail network. I use it and we can get anywhere from the city; poor old Wisbech hasn’t got that,” she said.

However she said Fenland still retained “a buoyant labour market” and said Fenland District Council was one of the best and most supportive of local authorities.

She said the continued success of Community House in providing support for those looking to up their skills or find a job was important; the numbers may be small but “everyone deserves a chance and this helps to provide it”.

Most Read

She also felt the introduction of the National Living Wage was an important milestone in areas such as Fenland.

“The majority of employers have embraced it and worked their recruitment policy around it,” she said.

Mrs Nix said the situation was particularly good for anyone looking for work and employers struggling to recruit had to think carefully about what they could offer.

“If you’re not the best employer and not paying as much as your neighbour you are going to struggle,” she said.

Mrs Nix felt that the retail sector in particular where vacancy levels were well documented might need to consider their approach. For example being friendlier to working mums in terms of hours worked and “starting to think more how they are going to be more creative”.

Family friendly policies were more important than ever, she said but it was also important to tackle employers who wanted a young worker and could often be advised of the suitability of taking those with experience and the right attitude.

She said the labour market would always create challenges for companies such as G’s where, for example, they might need 900 people to pick celery and lettuces from April to the end of September.

“We have a total of 265 people out of work,” she said. “You have to worry you do need extra people coming into this country.”

She said companies such as G’s “do come to us and we do try and get them local people. Cynics say everyone should go and pick lettuces but some will never be able to pick a lettuce. Land work is not for everyone never has been.”

Employment minister Damian Hinds said: “There’s good news in the East of England where there’s a record number of people inwork and the employment rate is 77.9 per cent, one of the highest rates for any UK region.”